Mozambique: Emergency food airlift to flood victims

News and Press Release
Originally published
JOHANNESBURG, 17 March (IRIN) - An emergency airlift of food to thousands of people cut off by floods caused by cyclone Japhet in central Mozambique has been launched, the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement on Monday.
A WFP helicopter made its first delivery on Sunday of corn soya blend (CSB) to stranded families in Javane, Cave, Xirire and Mangezi villages, located along the Save river, which burst its banks on 11 March.

"These desperately hungry people have lost almost everything and are completely dependent on food aid," said Angela van Rynbach, WFP Country Director in Mozambique. "Using a helicopter is our only alternative since key roads are still under water or have been washed away. Many villagers, especially the 2,600 people in the Javane area, have been totally cut off for an entire week and many may remain that way for weeks to come."

The airlift operation will provide maize meal, beans, CSB, high-energy biscuits and vegetable oil from WFP and the NGO Jesus Alive Ministries for 15,000 people living in Machanga town, Javane and its surrounding villages, all located in southern Sofala province's Machanga district.

Strong winds and rain from cyclone Japhet caused serious damage in central Mozambique when it hit in the first week of March. The cyclone then continued west into Zimbabwe where it unleashed heavy rains that sent waters rushing down the Save river back into Mozambique. The river overflowed and flooded the coastal lowland areas that straddle the Save, affecting some 50,000 people, WFP said.

The floods washed away roads which serve as the only major links into Machanga town, the district capital, and Nova Mambone, the northernmost town in Inhambane province, which lie on opposite banks of the Save river. Floods ravaged both areas in 1999 and 2000. Thousands of people have once again lost homes, household belongings, crops and livestock.

"The humanitarian situation in villages such as Javane is now critical since the inhabitants were extremely vulnerable before the floods. One month ago, WFP took part in an assessment of the area after a hunger-related death was reported and discovered that Javane was facing severe food shortages. Additional food aid was on its way to Javane when the floods hit, preventing the arrival of the vital stocks," the WFP statement said.

Some 25,000 people were hit by the floods in and around Nova Mambone in Guvuru district, where WFP was already providing emergency food for 16,000 drought-affected people. On 15 March the agency began distributing maize, beans, oil and salt to the remaining 9,000 men, women and children hit by the floods.

Before the cyclone, the region had been suffering from a severe dry spell that had ruined any possibility of a good maize harvest. In response, farmers had planted more drought resistant crops such as sweet potatoes and sorghum. These have all now been lost.

"In many cases, this will be the third, or even fourth, failed harvest in five years following floods in 1999 and 2000 and drought in 2002. Having exhausted traditional coping mechanisms in previous years, thousands of households will have no option but to rely on food aid," the statement said.

WFP currently aims to feed 650,000 drought-affected people in Gaza, Tete, Inhambane, Sofala, Manica and Maputo provinces. That number is expected to rise substantially in the coming year.


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